Thus far in this series, I’ve looked at my 2011 list and I’ve revisited some of my more aggressive rankings from the 2012 list. Now, to conclude the series, I’m going to look at 17 players that I seem to be underrating compared to the conventional wisdom.
Jesus Montero, #42
Statistics are far from the only thing that should go into the evaluation of a minor league player, but if there’s any player that can be largely evaluated on statistics, it’s a DH. After all, the one question is “Can he hit?” And as the line from Moneyball goes, if a guy is a good hitter, then why doesn’t he hit well? Of course, Jesus Montero does hit well–that’s why I said he was among the game’s top 50 prospects in spite of his not having any defensive value. But Billy Butler earned similar prospect accolades with very similar numbers, and he hasn’t become more than an average DH in the majors. It’s not like Montero is physically projectable, and he doesn’t seem to be elite in hitting for power, taking walks, or making contact. I still feel that this is the correct tier for him.
Gary Brown, #76
As I said in Part 3, one of my most inexcusable offenses on the list was to put Eric Surkamp as the best Giants prospect, 12 spots over Brown–that’s simply ridiculous, and I’m not quite sure how it happened. There was never a point at which I thought Surkamp was better, but it seems that’s how the list came out. Anyway, Brown could probably have been bumped up a couple dozen spots, but I’m still waiting to see what he does in the upper minors before buying into him as more than a solid-average center fielder.
Mike Montgomery, #84
It turns out that Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein is even lower on Montgomery than I am, leaving him completely off his top 101. Others still buy into his stuff and rank him in the top 50, sometimes even in the top 30. Goldstein’s reasoning for dropping Montgomery runs something along the lines of “he hasn’t pitched well in at least a year and a half,” which is the same issue I had. A tough player to rank, and I could understand any number of different spots for him. Top 40 is too much, though.
Nolan Arenado, #87
I mentioned in Part 2 how I regretted ranking Dustin Ackley 71st before I finished publishing the list, as he ripped apart the Arizona Fall League. The same was true this year of Arenado–he crushed the showcase circuit, and in particular, the reports on his defense were unanimous that he would stick at third. I’d probably cut this number in half if I did the list today, and it’s my one strong regret as far as being down on a guy.
Christian Yelich, #94
Two things brought this ranking about: 1) I was very skeptical of Yelich when he was drafted, and 2) He still has to prove he fits in a classic profile. He needs to add more power to be an impact first baseman or left fielder, and he’ll need to prove he can play a good center field if he’s going to stick at that position. Others bought in more quickly, which is totally understandable; it’s not hard to find reasons to push him into the top 50. This is just a hunch, and if he goes out again in 2012 and rips the ball, it’ll be time to put the doubts to rest.
Yonder Alonso, #97
I find it very hard to get excited about first base prospects, especially when they struggle to post .180 ISOs in the minors, even up through age 24.
Jarrod Parker, unranked
In Part 2, I talked about Kyle Drabek, whom I left off of the 2011 list to everybody’s disdain. Jarrod Parker is Drabek 2.0–he’s of a similar build, has a Tommy John surgery on his record, and posted near-identical stats as a 22-year-old in Double-A. Things obviously went badly for Drabek, so I see no reason to override my concerns about Parker’s profile given how spot-on my Drabek ranking was. But as an A’s fan, I sure hope I’m wrong, and I’ll definitely be watching closely to see if I’m getting too tied up in certain aspects here.
Nick Castellanos, unranked
Earlier today, in the final piece of my “Minors BABIP Musings” miniseries, I discussed Castellanos, who was one of the 18 hitters in the minors to post a BABIP over .400 in 2011:
He does rip a fair amount of liners, as evidenced by his 36 doubles, but he has yet to show game-breaking power, and his approach is lacking. He may be able to parlay his feel for contact into slightly above-average BABIP figures, but to be an impact player, something in the home runs, the walk rate (8%), or the strikeout rate (23.1%) needs to move.
He certainly has the upside of a top 100 player, and I wouldn’t begrudge a 75-100 ranking, but his .312 average is ridiculously BABIP-driven, and I think if he had a .330 BABIP in 2011, nobody would be ranking him above 75.
Will Middlebrooks, unranked
I can’t help but struggle to like a prospect who controls the zone this poorly. Obviously, he has power and defense, but so did Pedro Feliz and Kevin Kouzmanoff. He’s not going to sustain .360 BABIPs in the majors, so it would take a big breakthrough for him to be more than a 2-3 WAR player in the big leagues.
Starling Marte, unranked
Another BABIP hound with no plate discipline to speak of. Marte at least hits for such extreme BABIPs that there’s a chance he could sustain marks in the .330-.350 range in the majors, and he adds some value on the bases and in center field. He’s going to face a big test in the majors, though, when pitchers exploit his free-swinging tendencies, and I’m just not comfortable with him as an above-average player with such a major flaw.
Billy Hamilton, unranked
A divisive prospect–some think he’s 20th, others 200th. He didn’t miss my list by a whole lot, but like many of his detractors, I’m not sure he’s going to hit a whole lot, and the thought that he’ll have to move to second base is even less encouraging. Obviously, the speed is tremendous, but I wonder how much of that he’ll retain ten years from now, as well. Is he more than the infield Juan Pierre? Maybe, but he has to prove himself a lot more before I’m comfortable.
Anthony Rizzo, unranked
Like Alonso, Rizzo has struggled to dominate in the minors, which as I noted earlier, is of particular concern with 1B/DH types, where stats tell a lot of the story. He also looked totally lost in the big leagues. I don’t think it’s egregious to put him somewhere in the back half of the top 100, though–I just didn’t feel particularly compelled to do it myself.
Casey Kelly, unranked
I’m not particularly impressed by Kelly from either a statistical or a scouting perspective, and I’m honestly kind of confused by those who are. I see a prototypical fourth starter here.
Mike Olt, unranked
Another AFL helium guy, though I don’t really regret this yet. He’s going to be 24 in August and he hasn’t even played in the upper minors yet, and he’s always had strikeout problems. I like him better than Middlebrooks, but I find it difficult to see him starring without some major adjustments.
Zach Lee, unranked
Lee just missed my list, so I don’t really feel that I’m too far out of the norm here. He’s a back-50 guy for most, after all.
Jedd Gyorko, unranked
Here’s one I just am kind of floored I differ on. People really think Gyorko’s a top 100 guy? He hit .288/.358/.428 in Double-A at age 22 and plays a decent third base. Yeah, he crushed the CAL and the AFL, but I don’t see any huge attributes here. He’ll be a solid starter, but I’d be surprised if he ends up significantly better than current Padres hot cornerman Chase Headley.
So, things I regret on the 2012 list:
Having a bunch of finesse/non-electric stuff pitchers 10-30 spots too high (Erlin, Buckel, Wieland, Molina, and especially Surkamp)
I’ll make more of an effort next year to check my tendencies with finesse hurlers. Beyond that, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on which of my bold rankings end up looking smart and which come back to bite me.
Topics: Anthony Rizzo, Billy Hamilton, Casey Kelly, Christian Yelich, Gary Brown, Jarrod Parker, Jedd Gyorko, Jesus Montero, Mike Montgomery, Mike Olt, Nick Castellanos, Nolan Arenado, Starling Marte, Will Middlebrooks, Yonder Alonso, Zach Lee